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Don’t wait for 5G to close the gap between digital and physical industries

  • The telecom industry is responsible for a massive boom in digital industries. In the meantime, many physical industries – like manufacturing and agriculture – have been left behind.
  • Tod Sizer, the VP of Nokia Bell Labs, sees physical industries as a ''great untapped opportunity'' and a great way that we can help to impact society as a whole.
  • Seizer, however, also urges physical industries not to wait in 5G and start using the possibilities of 3G and 4G to start bringing the benefits of communications now.


This article originally appeared on RCR Wireless News.

The telecom industry, and the massive capex that has gone into building out wired and wireless networks, is in large part responsible for enabling a massive boom in digital industries, webscale companies like Google and Amazon for instance. And while this has been a good thing, most certainly, many physical industries like manufacturing and agriculture have been left behind. 5G is poised to change that, according to Tod Sizer, vice president of Smart Optical Fabric and Device Research at Nokia Bell Labs, but don’t wait.

In an interview this week at the Competitive Carrier Association’s Annual Convention in Providence, Rhode Island, Sizer said digital industries represent around 30% of the economy and are growing at around 3% per year while physical industries, comprising the other 70% of the economy, are growing at less than 1% per year.

''We see that as being, that investment in the use of our technology, communication technology, to solve problems in the physical industries, as a great untapped opportunity for us and a great way that we can help to impact society as a whole, hoping to bring the wealth and opportunity that always-connected brings to a much broader set of people in our country,'' Sizer said.

Looking at the growth enjoyed by webscales, Sizer said, ''The growth has been wonderful for them but we haven’t really seen the same benefit in a general way. Why is that? Why is it we’re seeing so much benefit to the IT industry but it hasn’t had the kind of Industrial Revolution impact of say in the 50s when transportation really helped raise the opportunity for everybody in the country.''

But, ''Don’t wait for 5G,'' he told a room of largely rural and regional carrier representatives. ''I think there are an awful lot of things that you can do with 3G and 4G working together with your customers…to bring benefits of communications now. There is value of course in 5G. But don’t wait. Start now with industrial applications.'' Sizer specifically called the manufacturing, transportation, logistics, mining and agricultural verticals.

The importance of connecting and digitizing the physical world has been a primary message from Nokia all the way up to CEO Rajeev Suri, who regularly highlights the grand vision of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Appearing by video in April at the Brooklyn 5G Summit, Suri took on the characterization of 5G as a global race and said, ''The question is not who wins but how do we all win.'' Connecting physical industries, he said, is ''key to improving overall rates of productivity and standard of living. Those very sectors that did not quite benefit from the Third Industrial Revolution…have ben leading the practical applications of 5G.''